Reading a pedigree is one of the most essential parts of a horse sale. It’s a huge part of the due diligence of buying a horse. If you are going to be spending any sort of money on a horse, then you need to know as much as you can about the horse.
There isn’t a lemon law in the horse world like there is if you buy a car. So you need to make sure you have a horse that is a caliber you are expecting or you could be out quite a bit of money. Just a fair warning. This post won’t help you rate/grade/appraise a horse. It is only here to help you learn more about a horse pedigree. So if you are looking for something more advance, this isn’t it. This is for beginners/novices.
Different Parts of the Pedigree
The pedigree is broken into a few different parts. From top down, it will have either all or a subset of these:
- Subject Line
- Three Cross
- Sire Blurb
- Female Family
- Race Record
- Produce Record
The purpose of a pedigree is to get a full understanding of what the family has done or is doing. The information here will help you get a general understanding of what goes on in a horse’s life. There are other parts that play a role in determining their value. Things like conformation, temperament, intelligence, gait, etc. We’ll dive into those later. So if are ready to learn a bit about how to read a pedigree, just scroll down! For this, we are going to use the a horse that was sold last year. Angela Renee. This pedigree is a year old. We wrote it in August of 2015. So the information on the pedigree might not be up to date with as of the time of this article post, which is late October 2016.
If you are looking at a sales catalog, the subject line tells you who is selling or who the consigner is and the name of the horse. If the horse is unnamed, it will have the color and sex. Like “Chestnut filly.” In the example we are using you can see who the consigner is and the name of the horse. This doesn’t change the value of a horse. This is just here to give you some information on who to talk to if you want to learn more about this horse.
If the horse is in a sale, you will also see the barn and the hip number. These are important because you’ll want to take a look at a horse and see it in person before you bid on it and you will also want to know when it’s being sold.
This is the most basic part of a pedigree. This is where you see the genealogy of the horse. When you look at this, you’ll be able to see it’s lineage back 3 generations. One of the main reasons why you would look at this, is to help figure out what type of caliber horse you are looking at. You’ll be able to recognize horses pretty quickly when looking at that. For instance, you can see that A.P. Indy is the grand sire. That is a very influential sire. That sire influenced the price of that horse to some degree (in a positive way).
There are 2 main parts to the pedigree after the three cross. There is the sire blurb and the female family. The sire blurb gives a brief history of the sire himself as a race horse, then dives into his progeny. So lets look at the Bernadini’s sire blurb.
Bernardini is a champion race horse, which is very impressive. Just as impressive as the $3,060,480 he has earned on the track. You also see that he won the Preakness S. [G1]. That shows what caliber of races he was competing in. He was a classics winner which is very rare just like being a $3,000,000 earner and a champion. But that’s half the equation. You also need to know how his crops are doing. If you are going to buy a horse, you need to know not only how talented the bloodline is, but how they transfer that talent to their offspring. Bernardini is still fairly young. He has had 6 crops (6 years of horses racing). And they have earned more than$44,950,611 collectively. A very sold amount of money.
Typically, you can expect to see around $1,000,000 per black type winner they have sired. So he has 39 black type winners and they have earned almost $45 million. So that number is higher. That means his winners have earned more money than the average horses. That’s a good thing. If instead of $45 million it was closer to $33 million, then that would be a little worse. Still impressive that the sire has 39 black type winners, but the ratio of black type winners to total money is a little rough.
You can see some of the horses that he has sired, and it’s pretty impressive. There is a champion, Ruud Awakening, and several million dollar horses. You can also see that all the horses that are in the sire blurb are all [G1] winners. Just by the look of the sire blurb, this horse seems to be very impressive. This is also about half the story. Now we need to dive into the female family and see how it looks.
The female family is a little more in depth. We go into detail on what the female family has done because there are a lot more dams than sires. A single sire can have around 50-100 offspring a year and a dam can have 1. So we know a lot more about the sire just because there are more of them racing. The mare plays an equally important role though. So lets walk through this one to get a better understanding of what is going on.
The first thing to make note of is the 1st, 2nd and 3rd dam. That is the mother, the mother’s mother and the mother’s mother’s mother. They also list their sire and a brief race record for those horses. So the first dam raced at 2 and 3 and won 3 races and earned a little over $100,000. A very solid race record. Then we start talking about their offspring. The first horse raced until it was 4 and earned a little under $2,000,000. He is also in the sire blurb, so you know he is one of his top horses. Also at the top of the dam’s produce record which means he is that mare’s top horse.
As you can tell, most of the horses listed in this pedigree are black type. Meaning the horse’s are bold. You will also see a bunch of horses that are considered light type. There are rules that dictates what category they will fall into, but to keep it very simple– the more black type you see on a page the better. I’ll go into detail and will have a link to the rules later, but for now just trust us that the more bold on a pedigree the better. We’ll also explain the difference in why some are in all caps and others are not. Falls into the same reason why some are bold and others aren’t.
This is pretty self explanatory. Most of the pedigree talks about what his or her family has done, but the race record and produce record are what the subject horse has done. The sire blurb and female family section are good indicators of the potential of the horse, but the race record shows what the horse has done. So let’s walk through what’s going on in this race record.
So Angela Renee raced at 2 and 3. The races are broken up by what age she was when they she raced. We list off every race she was in the top 3 in and don’t list races she did not place in. If she happened to finish in the top 3 in more than half of her races, we normally indicate that unless we don’t have any room on the pedigree. We would say something like:
At 2, three wins in 5 starts.
So you know that the horse would have started 5 times and 3 of the times finished first. The other two she didn’t finish in the top 3. You’ll also see the track and money earned for each race. So her race at 2 that she won was a Grade 1 Stakes race which is the most prestigious type of race you can win and she earned $180,000 from that race. That’s not the total purse, but that’s how much the horse won for herself from that race. Usually at the end, if the horse has a longer race record, we will list off the totals. The totals section at the end will list the number of races the subject horse finished in top 3 positions and the total money earned. So looking at Angela Renee’s race record, she won 2 races, came in second in 2 races and finished 3rd in 2 races. She also earned $462,000 from all of her earnings.
Engagements tell you what the subject horse is engaged in. Normally this will tell you if they are state bred registered. That’s important because of state purse incentive programs. They will also include if they are eligible for different types of races like Breeders’ Cup. They will also have a line explaining how the horse is selling as– Are they selling as a broodmare, racing, broodmare/racing or stallion prospect. That way you will know what type of horse he or she is and if they’ll be right for your program.
Pedigree pages can be a little overwhelming if you aren’t sure what to look for. If you have any questions on what is going on within a pedigree page, ask. This should give you a general understanding of what makes up a pedigree page, but if something is still confusing don’t be afraid to reach out to us.